Are Stocks Way Overbought?

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Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Graham Summers

Stocks are overbought.

And by overbought, I mean WAY overbought.

The relative strength index (RSI) is a metric used to measure the velocity and momentum of a given investment by comparing its upward and downward moves from close-to-close. If an investment is moving up strongly, its RSI is higher. Similarly, if an RSI is low, it means the investment is performing weakly.

Historically, RSI’s of 70 or higher mean an investment is overbought while an RSI of 30 means an investment is oversold. In these situations the market is primed for a “revert to the mean” trade, meaning you could see a quick correction or turnaround rally as the market snaps back to a more reasonably RSI.

Well, have a look at Friday's NASDAQ.

As you can see, the NASDAQ recently hit an RSI of 75. This is the highest reading we’ve seen in nearly two years. In fact, the last time the NASDAQ had an RSI of 75 was October 10, 2007, right before stocks entered their first major leg down in the Financial Crisis, losing 55% in six months.

As soon as I noticed this, I called up Ron Coby, a brilliant portfolio manager based in Medford, Oregon. Ron’s one of the smartest guys I know and when it comes to trading short-term moves, he’s one of the best in the business. What he had to say completely blew me away.

Ron said,“Graham, you won’t believe this, but I went back on the NASDAQ and made a note of every time it hit an RSI of 75. EVERY TIME, the market collapsed soon after. And I don’t mean a “plain vanilla” correction, I mean a full blown CRASH.”

Ron then forwarded me the following chart. Suffice to say, I was floored:

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As you can see, the NASDAQ has hit an RSI of 75 or higher five times in the last 12 years. Every time, the market collapsed soon after with an average drop of -22%. In several cases, stocks suffered a full-blown CRASH.

This is a very serious warning for the Bulls. A high RSI doesn’t mean that stocks have to CRASH immediately. But it does indicate that the NASDAQ is more than ready for a serious correction. Again, an RSI of 75 or higher has only been hit FIVE times in the last 12 years. Two of those times were at massive historic bubble peaks. The others were all periods in which stocks were simply far too overbought. And ALL FIVE OF THEM PRECEDED SERIOUS CORRECTIONS.

Be forewarned, if stocks are this overbought, we’re in dangerous territory. If smart money like Ron Coby is worried and shifting to a defensive stance, I’m paying attention.

I suggest you do the same.